Vinitaly 2012

Having visited one of the largest wine trade fairs in the world only three weeks before, it is hard to imagine anything I would want to do less than attend the largest (if you want to know why feel free to read my entry on Prowein 2012). But I was in the same situation I was before, where I wouldn’t be able to arrange any visits to wineries as everyone would be at the fair, and it was also a good opportunity to meet a large number of producers whose regions I would be visiting. Having the experience of Prowein was a huge help as I had some idea what to expect. Without that experience I would have been even more overwhelmed than I was at Prowein. Secondly I knew a lot more Italian regions and producers than I did for Germany and Austria, having specialised in Italian wines and varieties at the store I worked in. Finally I was meeting up with the two most important Italian wine importers in Australia – Arquilla and Trembath & Taylor – to join them for some of their appointments, so it was great to have some structure to the four days.
Verona Fiere – where the magic of Vinitaly happens

Whereas Prowein is a fairly even balance between all the major European producing countries, along with many New World and alternative European producers, Vinitaly is almost exclusively Italian. And if I thought there were a lot of Italian producers represented at Prowein (and there were), then I was in for a surprise at how many there would be at Vinitaly. There are no less than 11 very large halls, mostly dedicated to one or more regions, and within these halls there were anywhere between 50 and 200 stands. Navigating through them was sometimes challenging, and it was also slightly frustrating that often producers from a region weren’t in the hall dedicated to that region. If you didn’t know they were in a different hall, you would assume they weren’t attending the fair. You could spend all nine hours of each of the four days in one hall, and never be bored. Sticking to a plan is important, but it is good to stay flexible.

Sicilian hall at Vinitaly 2012

On the first day I was mostly getting my bearings and not trying to do too much. For the most part I joined , Maurizio Ugge, Peter Arquilla and some other guests of Arquilla Wines. Maurizio was a great help to me back in Melbourne in supplying a great range of Italian wines and spirits, and just before I left hosted a very successful Piedmont Masterclass in the cellar. During the day we visited two Sicilian producers – Donnafugata and Planeta – who both worked with a number of indigenous varieties from different parts of the island. The Planeta wines really spoke to me, particularly the Alastro 2011 (90% grecanico, 10% fiano), and also the Plumbago Nero D’Avola 2010. We also caught up with a number of sparkling producers, two from Prosecco (Bellussi and Loredan Gasparini) and Ca’ del Bosco from Franciacorta. I used to sell heaps of the Bellussi Prosecco DOCG, so it was nice to meet the team. With the redrawing of the borders of the DOC for Prosecco, they are releasing a new wine which has a very similar label, but is nowhere near as good, looking a little sweet and broad.

Some prosecco to get the week started right

The second day started with the Trembath & Taylor group. Trembath & Taylor was the other importer I worked closely with, and we were one of the largest stockists of the grappas from Nonino. My account manager was Matt Paul, who I was really pleased to see during the fair as he helped me alot in planning my time in Italy. The first appointment was with A.Mano from Puglia, who I look forward to visiting in five weeks time down south to try some lovely primitivo. The afternoon was spent visiting some small but great Piedmont producers, including Poderi Colla (wonderful Barbaresco 2008), Chiara Boschis (powerful yet elegant Canubi Barolo 2006), and Conterno Fantino (Barolo Vigna del Gris 2008 the standout). I also found some time to visit Pala from Sardinia and was blown away by their high quality wines of honesty and humility, Feudi di San Gregorio from Campania to try some Falaghina and Aglianico, and some Romagna producers I will talk about in my next post.

How about some sparkling Nebbiolo?

Day three was a long day filled to the brim with appointments, mostly in Hall Eight with the Tuscan producers. I met and sometimes tasted with producers such as Poggio Antiera (Maremma), Brancaia (Chianti mostly), Frescobaldi (everywhere) and Mazzei (Chianti and Maremma), and several of which I will visit in two weeks. I also tasted a range of 2007 Brunellos which all looked very good, from such producers as Poggio Antico, Costanti and Fuligni, but were nowhere near the 2006 Riserva Fuligni, which was the wine of the fair. To finish the day at the fair I caught up with a few Piedmont producers I sold in the shop; Burlotto and La Raia. They were lovely people and the wines were excellent, especially for the price. Burlotto in particular work with a range of Piedmont varieties that tend to be blended into Langhe Rosso wines. The evening continued in Verona with a dinner at one of the best trattorias in the city (Al Pompiere), along with the T&T group and their Soave producer Pieropan. The wines were all sensational (mostly single vineyard), and the food was glorious. Well worth the 72 Euro cab fare back to my B&B out near the lake.

A quick visit to the very busy Massolino stand

The final day was pretty tiring, compounded by the late night and early start. I was in less of a tasting mood, which was perfect as it was the fourth day that I took the tour out to Allegrini (see previous post). I did take the opportunity to taste a few more producers from Sardinia, starting with Santadi (another producer I used to sell). The varietal Santadi wines are all wonderfully pure, balanced, food friendly and most importantly, unique. I wasn’t such a fan of their more premium wines, as they are quite heavy, tannic and oaky, and are designed for certain markets and wine critics. The Spanish-born winemaker recommended Dettori, and I could see why. Not because the wines are amazingly good, but they are very different. They work with biodynamic principles, and make their wines very naturally and traditionally. The winery doesn’t compromise for markets or trends, and if nature is providing problems in the vineyards, they simply don’t make wine from the fruit, rather than interfere by spraying chemicals. Their stance is almost fundamentalist aggressive, you have to admire their conviction, but its a little in your face. Some of the wines are revelatory, some are just plain weird (17% alcohol anyone?). On the other end of the spectrum was Argiolas, a very large Sardinian winery that makes fairly safe wines but at least they are using indigenous varieties.

Dettori – these guys are seriously crazy

It was great having the chance to see some familiar faces from back home, and also to meet some new people to learn about the Italian wines. The trend of extremely hospitable Italian hosts continues, with numerous wineries offering a place to stay and/or a meal over wine and good conversation. The experience was great, and has certainly excited my palate to discover more.

Slightly weary after four days of Vinitaly 2012

Click here to see more photos from Vinitaly 2012.

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